Soil My Undies

I’m going to talk to you about soiled underwear. No, not what you’re thinking – this is research.  The nationwide “Soil My Undies Challenge” is a fun way to learn about life in your soil and what’s going on down there.

Bury a pair of men’s 100% cotton skivvies just a few inches under the ground, then dig them up 8-weeks later. Soil organisms devour organic material, and if enough of them found your underpants to be palatable, there shouldn’t be much left except the elastic waistband.

Mike White is an Extension viticulture specialist with Iowa State University. He planted some tighty-whities in a few vineyards around the state.

"I’d call up the vineyard and I’d say, we’re going to do this pruning field day, and then I’d say, do you mind if I bury my underwear underneath the soil? There’d be this hesitation on the phone, and you could just see their faces! It was kind of a joke at first, but it was all about getting the soil quality message out and awareness," says White.

The skivvies he planted were well-eaten, but results from underwear experiments around the country clearly indicate which soils can support the buffet.

"What they found out is that under these cover crop soils, the underwear’s completely gone, or almost completely gone," he says. "But if you go out in conventional tilled fields where there’s been a long history of tillage and pesticide use, herbicides, insecticides, they don’t have the population of microflora organisms and that to chew up the cotton underwear."

Some advice from White – don’t bury your underwear if you expect to wear them later.

Learn how to soil your tighty whiteys